Rich vocabulary for the beautiful game

Normally I’m not much of a sports fan, but for the big events like the World Cup, I also get involved, enjoying the televised dramas of athletes and nations, and the remarkable skillfulness and intricacies of what’s been called “the beautiful game.”

A bonus in this particular series is listening to the play by play commentary of the announcers (British they seem to be). I’m not the first person to mention this. Early in the series I recall a newspaper writer saying he’d taped an otherwise unremarkable game just to listen to the way it was called. The announcers have at their disposal a rich and fascinating vocabulary, drawn sometimes from the world of epic battle, sometimes from the earthy informality of schoolboys playing on a neighbourhood vacant lot, and it streams from them quite unstudied, it seems, as if they always talk in such vivid and varied ways.

I jotted down a few examples from today’s Ghana-Uruguay game. It was a “potentially crackling game,” though as the game progressed to its end with a tie, no prediction could be “forthcoming.” When one team did something well after a sluggish stretch, they were “rejuvenated.” A good opportunity stopped by the defense? They’d made “a total hash of that.” The Ghanians, it was declared, have “an insatiable appetite for work.” Something happened “in the winking of an eye” and a saved ball landed in the keeper’s “welcoming arms.”

It’s the game’s pace, perhaps, that leaves a little more room for adjectives than (our game) hockey’s “he gets the pass, he shoots, he scores.” One play was “a valiant job,” another “a heart-stopping moment.” On one play, the defenders not only defended but “bravely” defended.

Verbs of all sorts too, of course — strong and varied ones. Players “instigated” plays, the crowd was “roaring in anticipation” (and later, “had another blow on the vuvuzuela.”)

When Gyan missed the penalty kick in the last moments of overtime, he had his “glory snatched away, but he served his country well enough.” And when he stepped up for his turn at the deciding penalty kicks, “the whole of Africa [was] praying lightning doesn’t strike twice.”

Once, after a number of attempts on goal during regular play, the announcer said that no shots had been “particularly cogent.”

Did he just say cogent?

Beautiful game indeed.

5 thoughts on “Rich vocabulary for the beautiful game

  1. Amen, Dora! I have always marveled at how British announcers in particular call a game. I love their honesty. I remember one game where after a player punted a free kick ten metres over the bar, there was a silent pause, and then, “well, that might just be the worst free kick I’ve seen all tournament.” Beautiful.

    The commentary has certainly been a significant part of my enjoyment of the World Cup this year.

  2. Hello Dora;
    I love the fact that you commented on the commentators. There’s one fellow at this WC who says his bit and then snorts his phlegm through his nasal passages repeatedly. (John Helm?) Oh, how I pray he doesn’t announce the Final!!
    I have always taken these announcers for granted until about ten years ago when I rented a “football” video game. I missed a shot over the net, and the announcer with some Brit accent said, “Oh he had to do better with that one.”
    I don’t think you could’ve done better on this one Dora. Cheers.

  3. Thanks, Martin. I hadn’t noticed the phlegm business but sure hope for your sake he’s not calling the final! Sunday’s game is bound to be exciting — we can all cheer for our favourite team and listen for our favourite commentator lines.

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